From the foothills of the Himalayas to the salons of Paris, the wafting scent of hashish evokes the timeless appeal of cannabis. People around the globe smoke hash every day, and it’s likely that some of the first humans ever to discover cannabis’s psychoactive properties were consuming the sticky brown substance. It has an alluring, enduring mystique in America, where its consumption has never caught on like elsewhere in the world. But where does it come from, and why has it never enjoyed that same popularity in the United States?
Hash, in its most basic form, is remarkably simple to produce. The female cannabis flower bristles with glandular trichomes that contain THC, the principal (but not the only) psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The heads of the trichomes, which are like tiny, alien antenna protruding from the flower, secrete crude resin. Hash is simply an agglomeration of this resin, produced by shaking or rubbing the plant, detaching the gland heads and collecting their secretions, and pressing them together into a waxy brown or black glob.
Because it’s simple, hash is also ancient. In terms of cannabis consumption worldwide, Americans’ preference for whole dried flower, rather than resin or hash, is an outlier: humans have been consuming hash for thousands of years, long before we were breeding and drying the female plant’s buds to smoke. If you were an ancient person harvesting the crop to use it for, say, rope or fabric, you might still find your hands covered, at the end, in a sticky brown substance: resin mixed with plant particulates, or crude hashish. Rubbing your hands together, you would form small balls of this resin. Cleaning your hands with your teeth, or tossing those pellets into the fire and inhaling some smoke, you might make a startling discovery: the cannabis plant has psychoactive powers.
When and where this first happened is unclear, because it was before recorded history. The cannabis plant likely originated near the Himalayas, in Nepal or India, or maybe in China. Because of its many uses and its weed-like (no pun intended) proliferation, it was spread around Central Asia by migrating, warring and trading societies for thousands of years before the advent of written historical records. Many popular legends describe Nepali cannabis farmers harvesting resin from their leather aprons or naked bodies after a day of harvest; these are hippy fantasies, to be sure, but they contain a grain of truth.
Later, hashish spread across the Middle East, Northern Africa and into Europe. Many of the earliest written mentions of hashish come from poems debating whether the substance, like alcohol, is prohibited by Islam. According to some, Napoleon’s armies brought hashish to Europe when they returned from the Egyptian Campaigns in the first years of the 19th century. A fad of orientalism was at that time sweeping Europe. A false rumor arose, linking the use of hashish to certain groups of Arabic assassins. This romantic idea later inspired a group of French artists, including Baudelaire, Balzac, Rimbaud and others, to form the Club des Haschischins in Paris in 1945, where they ate hashish in the form of a paste, mixed with almonds and washed down with soup—a recipe that somehow didn’t make it into any of the classic French cookbooks.
The word “hashish” took on diverse meanings as well as diverse spellings. Some used it as a catch-all term for cannabis products. New methods of production were introduced, including sieved hash, a mechanically produced product that tends to be blacker and denser than traditional hand-rubbed pellets, and rosin hash, which uses external heating to convert the sticky resin into a more watery substance that’s then squeezed out of the bud and shaped into a waxy brick. Later on, live resin was invented: a form of cannabis concentrate that used flash freezing to preserve the terpenes and flavor that are usually lost during the process of drying and curing the bud.
In the United States today, hash often plays second fiddle to high-tech extracts and supercharged flower—but that’s likely due to the subpar quality of the hashes that do make it over the Atlantic. Luckily, hash today is enjoying a renaissance, buoyed by the hard work of a few pioneers, most notably the late Frenchy Cannoli, who spent nearly two decades in India, Nepal and Morocco learning the arcane art of traditional hash-making, including eight summers in northern India, near the birthplace of cannabis—and of hash.
Frenchy, from France, combined an artisan’s attention to detail with the palate and taste of a true cannabis-lover, and brought his techniques to California with a series of workshops and books. We’re lucky to work closely with Cherryblossom Belle, who apprenticed with Frenchy for seven years, and who today works to combine modern scientific knowledge with old-world techniques to produce the best hashish in the world at Heritage Mendocino. Explore all their products here—or visit us at our Sebastopol shop to learn what makes Heritage hash so special.